Throughout my adventures into writing reviews of albums here at Power Of Prog, it is no secret that I do reviews on bands that are fronted by women. I believe that women have just as much a equal contribution into progressive rock, progressive metal and just music in general. Therefore when I met Insatia’s Zoe Marie Federoff on Facebook I was highly interested in their new release for 2017 Phoenix Aflame on Pitch Black Records. Insatia are a North American powerhouse with members from both the USA and Canada. Although they are from North America they provide the listener with a more European flavour of progressive power metal.
Insatia are like a Second GenerationNightwish meets Lacuna Coil with heavier power metal elements found in Blind Guardian, Avantasia and Gamma Ray. This is a type of band that could easily play a Female Metal Voices Festivaland turn around and play at Wacken Open Airwith the right circumstances. Now a little track by track analysis of Insatia’s Phoenix Aflame.
IntroLand Of The Living opens up almost in a traditional world music vocal. Zoe Federoff certainly channels the inner Enya with chat style vocals. Soon the rest of the band joins her and the vocals along with the instrumental half serve a heavily pastoral purpose.
Act Of Mercy transitions quite seamlessly and smoothly with a spoken word section before the instruments kick in again. With a mid range in speed the band utilizes various chord changes to craft together a balance of both progressive and power metal passages. The vocal echoes also are allowed to breathe where the listener can hear them come through. The chord progressions rest more in progressive metal than power metal in the latter parts of this track.
Memory Of A Sapphire explodes with a fury of strings between the really heavy rhythm guitar riffs and the beautiful crystallize keyboards of Ivan Moni Bidin. At times it sounds like a blend of Blind Guardian on the power metal end meets Vanden Plas on the progressive metal end. This is loaded with various guitar solos, rhythm guitar portions that are all anchored by the bass/drum rhythm section. Zoe Marie Federoff does a wonderful job here singing on perfect time to both the stringed sections and rhythm sections. Kaelen Sarakinis – Guitars really channels his inner Emppu Vuorinen (Nightwish) on the rhythmic side to the guitar.
Sacred opens up with a violin induced classical metal chord progression. This is soon accompanied by the crunchy raw rhythm guitar section. Soon the entire instrumental half kicks in and makes this a more neo classical delight. The rhythm section is very heavy handed while the keyboard lends a beautiful atmosphere perfect for a power metal style track. There are some progressive metal elements with various time signatures and frequent changes in the rhythmic section. The violin section adds a symphonic flare to the song a well.
We Are The Gray opens up with a nasty tuned down drum based rhythm section that is accented perfectly with a classical keyboard atmosphere to accompany it. The rhythmic portion of this one is very clean and easy to follow. The keyboard and other stringed atmospheres allow for actual emotion to come through and be shown. The band uses overdubbed backing tracks to really make the vocals feel warmer. The guitar solo is also allowed to breathe in its various stages.
Phoenix Aflame is obviously the namesake track to the entire album. It starts out with a furious fury of really heavy guitar chord progressions. The entire opening passage is seriously blistering. There is a beautiful Hammond Organ style keyboard running parallel to the blistering guitar and rhythm led passages. This is one of the heavier songs on the album. It is also very progressive in nature with various time changes and chord progressions much in the vein of Kamelot or SymphonyX . The bass really bleeds through as well.
Not My God starts off with a heavy classically based piano section. The opening really leads the listener into a very beautiful power ballad full of emotion. I stress ‘Power Ballad’ because it is both really heavy with the various progressions and very much a ballad at the same time. This is a more modern ‘Power Ballad’ instead of one you would find in 1980’s to early 1990’s AOR/Hard Rock. It rests more in a song like Kamelot’s The Haunting.
Captor And The Captive is another song that opens up with a lush classical piano melody much like a ‘Power Ballad’. Soon it opens up much like a heavy progressive metal chord progression. I hear a lot of influence from a Dream Theater’s Another Day at the start. Soon this levels out into more of a power metal melody that is met with a light pop sensibility. This is a ‘Gateway’ song for a newer listener or fan to power metal or progressive metal. This is a song that is excellent for live sets to draw more newer fans as well is retaining the current fan base.
Velvet Road opens up with a beautiful acoustic passage that is met with very angelic vocal inspired opening passage. This song reminds me a lot of what you would hear out of the singer-songwriter community. This has a beauty about it due to its unplugged nature. This also allows the lyrical story to be front and center due to its unplugged nature and emotion. This even has a 16th Century Renaissance style about it.
Healer Of Hatred starts off with a very blistering opening chord progression. This is also the final track on the album. The band does a great job with this finale to Phoenix Aflame. This is blistering straight away neo classical power metal in its very essence. With heavy charging rhythm guitars that follow beautiful drum blast beats this is a true headbanging tour de force on all levels. The rhythm section in harmony to the guitar solos add to the beautiful atmosphere to this song.
There is obviously no doubt that Insatia have all the tools and talent for a steadfast career in this style of heavy progressive power metal. With the right promotional mechanism and time they will be major players on the world scene. They are also proof that this kind of metal will be around for at least another generation to come. Another thing that I like about this album was that the band made it short and sweet and to the point. That is something they will benefit from due to this being a sophomoric effort. Considering all this I give Insatia’s Phoenix Aflame a very strong 4.75/5 .
I can remember a time in the early to middle 1980’s where some very quality heavy metal bands were coming out of the New England area of the United States. Much of the bands were coming from Connecticut area. My first introduction to bands out of this area was Liege Lord in 1983. Soon after that I would discover Steel Prophet and Obsession. But in 1984 it was legendary progressive metal Fates Warning that would really put the Connecticut/New England metal scene on the global map. These bands would all share into some success throughout the rest of the 1980’s until the Seattle bands in the Pacific Northwest would alter the musical landscape for a few years to come.
While record labels and promoters were having their honeymoon with plaid clad lumberjack Grunge whores, heavy metal would suffer for a while and music that once sold out arena’s was reduced back to the nightclub scenes it seemed to of come out of just a decade before. However as many know heavy metal is extremely resilient and has proven so in its almost 50 year history. It is so resilient in fact that those bands I mentioned would recruit another generation of bands. Crossing Rubicon would be one of those bands. Here is a brief biography from their official Crossing Rubicon Facebook Page.
Crossing Rubicon began as a two-man project involving Scotty Anarchy and Pete Ahern (Red China Blue). The band enlisted our current drummer Brandi Hood shortly thereafter. Zach Lambert came on board and the group’s second guitarist. Brandi’s long-time rhythmic accomplice Jeff Diablo joined in the spring of 2010 as the groups bassist to round out the lineup. Pete stepped away from the band in the summer of 2010. Rob Dolan (ex-Dirty Blonde, ex-Hot Mess) joined to fill the lead role through four very successful shows including opening slots for In This Moment, Nonpoint, Pop Evil, and Rev Theory. In March 2011, the groups current guitarist Matt Douglas took over as the group’s permanent lead guitarist. Success continued as the band landed opening slots for Motley Crue, Bret Michaels, and Tantric. Bassist Jeff Miles stepped away from the band in late 2013 to be replaced by the groups current bassist, Steven Riccio. Crossing Rubicon’s music is often described as a throwback to metal of the 80’s and early 90’s, as band such as Queensryche, Alice In Chains, Metallica, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden, while having a modern rock sound.
It would be that very sound that the band would employ to forge their debut album No Less Than Everything. The band not only applies vintage heavy metal forged from the golden lineage of heavy metal but also advance the evolution of power progressive metal with very modern and relevant elements. Their music is written in such a way that it is ‘Generation Transcending’ as to not be pigeonholed to any particular generational or age demographic. They certainly have a keen and intricate sense of allow all the hallmarks of pure and true heavy metal to come through everything they write and record. Now I will proceed to do a track by track analysis and point out some highlights from every track on Crossing Rubicon’s No Less Than Everything.
Tomorrow Never Comes is a straight away guitar charged frenzy. This frenzy is backed by a very quick and precise charging rhythm section. The vocals are a hybrid of Michael Kiske meets Jon Oliva. There is almost a slight thrash metal aesthetic throughout this track. The backing vocals have some attitude behind them as well. The guitar solo’s are well balanced.
Unhinged opens up with a more tuned rhythmic section both with the bass/drum and rhythm guitar. It is a bit more distorted than the previous track however the intro serves a purpose to set up the first verse and bridge narrative. The female backing vocals add some depth to this track as well. This track just continues to build layer upon layers on heavy rhythm sections within the chord progressions.
Never Again begins with a blistering rhythmic section based around the drums. From there it is a total blister fest between chord progressions and time signatures forming some brutal passages. The heavy blast beats of the bass drums really ground and anchor this track. The guitar solo really stands out as a shred fest among this heavily rhythm based track.
The Fallen begins as a semi atmospheric ballad with a isolated guitar bass and vocal before taking off into a blistering frenzy. This track goes from more of a ballad into a anthem style track. The vocals are very warm and really play off the backbone of the rhythm section. The guitar chord progressions are a bit warmer in this song as well. The lead portion of the guitar goes into a multiple solo style progression telling almost a instrumental story narrative. The backing vocals are very spot on as well. This track ends almost like a Savatage style track.
Bittersweet Day opens up with a very groove laden rhythm section with some really intricate rhythm guitar work in perfect harmony with the bass/drum rhythm section. This track is a very gritty yet fluid track allowing the vocals to come through very crystal clear allowing the track to both breathe and tell the story of the song. The guitar solo’s remind me a lot of a Kai Hansen (Helloween era) meets Savatage’s Cris Oliva. This is one of those songs that can hold its own in any decade over the last 30 years.
Cut Deep reminds me of one of those old school hard rock tracks that may of surfaced in the late 1980’s early 1990’s. There is a certain Alice In Chains influence happening in this track with the multiple vocal harmonies. This takes nothing away from the beautiful quality of the track. I hear some KingsX and even Galactic Cowboy odd metal influence in this one. The vocals harmonies are the true highlight on Cut Deep.
Whos Gonna Save You opens up with a serious blistering rhythm section. This is beautifully followed up with some nasty yet brutal lead vocals with some blistering and brooding backing vocal harmonies. The lyrical content is spot on in harmony with the instrumental throughout the entire track. The writing was deliberately brutal on this song. Even the rhythm section and guitars are brutal with some serious teeth behind them. This is just one serious beast of a track.
Violet Carson opens up with a vocal chant like there may be a occult thing going on here. The vocal chants are layered with beautiful harmony. Soon the track takes a very dark and brutal brooding chord progression. This song really reminds me of a Mercyful Fate meets Narnia vibe in a very odd yet tasteful way. The rhythm section throughout goes in and out between a progressive and power metal time signature. Once again the guitar solos are very spot on in time and register. There is a very wicked and beautiful spoken word section in the middle of the track to help enhance the narrative of the story. The vocal chants harmonies are the true anchor on this one.
Reason To Beg opens up with a very traditional heavy metal chord progression. The rhythm section reminds me a lot of gritty sleaze rock in the vein of Dirty Looks meets Ugly Kid Joe with slight progressive power metal elements. The lyrical content is rather brutal as well.
Do We Not Bleed is one of those tracks that could of been very radio friendly in the 1980’s or early 1990’s. It is a very well written straight away heavy metal track that carries all the hallmarks of verse/bridge/chorus with a well executed guitar solo within it that is carry by a strong bass/drum rhythm section. This is a song that could also be easily adapted to video form.
Im Here is a straight up guitar and vocal oriented track. With that said it is greatly anchored by a killer rhythm section with some serious emotion within the lyrical construct. It is a very fast up tempo track that will appeal to both metal purists and progressive metal purists. The chord progressions within the guitar solos are very heavily progressive influenced along with the vocal harmonies. The vocals really hit some high points on the register.
Return To Atlantis opens up with a very unusual but welcomed ocean crashing on the shore effect. Then the track takes on a very pure progressive metal chord progression allowing the rhythm section and lyrical story to breathe while the listener digests what they are listening to. This track is really focused on the harmony between vocals and instrumental portions developing a special emotion for the audience to really absorb this. The guitar solos are arranged and executed to the point as to not take away from the obvious story narrative the band is trying to convey to their target audience.
Crossing Rubicon are definitely one of those bands that really take a little bit of influence from all eras of heavy metal and hard rock and balance them with ease. They also blend all these various forms of metal and hard rock without it sounding stale or dated. They definitely have created a sound that will not pigeonhole them into where they can play and who they can share a live bill with. It is also noted that No Less Than Everything is a ‘debut’ album. If this is a debut album I can not wait for what they will do next. They definitely have the talent and ability to created various levels to heavy metal and hard rock. For a well thought of and well written ‘debut’ I give this a 4.5/5 for the insightful effort.
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